Justice Alan Lawson is retiring from the Florida Supreme Court after six years on the bench, the court announced Friday.
The retirement is effective Aug. 31, and means Gov. Ron DeSantis will name his replacement, making it the sixth appointment to the Florida Supreme Court in his first term in office.
Lawson was appointed by DeSantis’ predecessor, Rick Scott, in 2016, after serving 11 years on the 5th District Court of Appeal. Prior to that, he served for three years on the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orlando.
“One of the greatest joys of my 35-year legal career has been and continues to be the ability to work alongside a bench and Bar filled with extraordinary individuals who work tirelessly to assure that the citizens we serve are well-served by our system of justice.” Lawson wrote in a letter to DeSantis announcing his departure.
“That system is often criticized yet still endures as the best system of justice that the world has ever seen.”
Lawson, 60, was 15 years away from Florida’s mandatory retirement age for justices. No reason for the move was given other than to spend more time with his family and interests outside the court.
“Julie and I plan to enjoy retirement, prioritizing family, health and fitness, spiritual growth and development, friends, the outdoor sports that we enjoy, and charitable work in the United States and abroad,” Lawson stated in the court’s announcement.
Lawson is a conservative and his retirement is unlikely to alter the balance of the bench, which has six conservatives and one liberal justice. DeSantis has appointed five staunch conservatives already in his three years in office, including three in the first weeks of his term.
Two of those, Justices Barbara Lagoa and Robert Luck, were later appointed to the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals by then-President Donald Trump. DeSantis appointed their replacements, Justices John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans.
The announcement will spur activity by members of the Judicial Nominating Commission, who will interview applicants and present a slate of three to six nominees to DeSantis.
DeSantis has previously interviewed all nominees before making a selection and has said he reads many previous rulings by the candidates.
“Justice Alan Lawson has admirably served the people of Florida on our Supreme Court,” DeSantis said in a released statement. “I ran for Governor in part because of the importance of the gubernatorial responsibility of shaping our Supreme Court, and I will appoint a successor to Justice Lawson who will uphold our state’s Constitution and interpret the law with the same dedication to the original understanding of the text that Justice Lawson demonstrated throughout his judicial career.”